Tag Archives: Politics

The Promise of Africa’s “Plan A” for a Flourishing Future

As Africa emerges as the world’s youngest continent, boasting six out of the 10 fastest-growing economies, the global community is taking notice of its unprecedented growth trajectory. In this context, YPO (Young Presidents Organization) member and Group CEO at ForAfrika, Isak Pretorius passionately advocates for embracing Africa’s inherent potential through a profound approach he calls “Investing in Africa’s Plan A.”

Pretorius asserts that when we engage with African communities and nations, we uncover an array of ingenious plans waiting to be supported and nurtured. Central to his advocacy is the importance of investing in Africa the right way, emphasizing that “when we do that, we will see that Africa’s plan succeeds.” This underscores the vital role of aligning resources with community-owned initiatives to foster sustainable success.
A Crucial Moment for Africa

Pretorius’s call to action resonates deeply with leaders worldwide, as they increasingly recognize Africa’s significance and potential for strategic investments.

According to the International Monetary Fund, many economies are grappling with stagnation or decline in working-age populations. In contrast, Africa is poised to become a major contributor to the global workforce by 2050. YPO member Yaw Benneh-Amponsah, Managing Director of Merson Capital in Ghana, emphasizes Africa’s evolving demographics, noting, “Africa’s population is growing. We are becoming a more educated population. We’re young and adventurous.”


This demographic evolution presents vast opportunities for Africa. Indeed, now is the time to chart a new course for Africa, one that secures its position and commands respect on the global stage
Embracing Africa’s “Plan A”

Against this exciting backdrop, Africans are coming up with their own versions of “Plan A” for the future. These aspirations hold the potential to usher in greater safety, peace and digital connectivity, noted Sanjay Rughani, CEO of Standard Chartered for Tanzania and YPO member, during YPO’s Global Impact Summit in Rwanda earlier this year. “It’s about becoming self-reliant,” he said.

Moreover, Africans are finding solutions in areas such as climate, infrastructure, energy and water management that have value beyond Africa’s borders. “Africa has its own fair share of challenges, and very often, we’ve had to find our own solutions to those challenges,” notes YPO member, Fola Laoye, Co-Founder and CEO at Iwosan Investments Limited in Nigeria. “It’s great that we have the opportunity to bring some of those solutions to the rest of the world.”
Empowering Africa’s Youth: Catalysts for Change

With high-quality traditional jobs in short supply, one critical foundation of any long-term plan for Africa’s future will be stopping the brain drain and giving young people a good reason to build their careers on the continent.

Entrepreneurship is an ideal way to do that, say many experts, and it’s already taking root organically. Young people looking for ways to make a living are driving the world’s highest rate of entrepreneurship, as the Brookings Institute notes in the Foresight Africa 2024 report.

Africa has gotten further ahead in technology than anticipated, and that factor, in combination with its youthful population, has been a powerful force, according to Laoye. “Small-scale businesses are finding the value of compounding and growing quite quickly with technology and therefore are bringing some tech-enabled solutions to the world,” says Laoye.
Taking Ownership of Africa’s Future

As Benneh-Amponsah asserts, “We should take ownership of our own plan and let that be plan A. Even if our plan is not as well-resourced as people from other jurisdictions, whatever resources we have, we should be able to risk those on our own plan. In shaping the future, the key thing is to believe in our own potential to take control of our future.”

The engagement of local leaders will also allow for better execution of any plans, Benneh-Amponsah believes. “The unique contribution that we can make is to bring our perspective to the table, which relates back to taking ownership of our progress because a lot of solutions fail since they are not sensitive to the context,” he said. “Who understands the African context better than those of us who are taking risks, risking our own resources on African solutions?” And, as leaders outside of Africa get involved in the progress that is already percolating, local leadership will be the key to building sustainable success.
YPO – Empowering Leaders to Shape a Better Future

Ultimately, it will take many leaders to craft a compelling vision for Africa’s future and come together to put it into action. To this end, YPO plays a pivotal role in this endeavor by empowering business leaders to shape a brighter tomorrow and harness the collective power of better leadership in lives, businesses and the world.

If you are interested in joining YPO’s global network of the world’s most influential business leaders driving positive change, visit www.ypo.org/acf/ or contact africa@ypo.org to learn more.

Source: The Africa Report, 28th May 2024


Economic hardship, insecurity spike in Mali as ECOWAS exit looms

Mali’s exit from the bloc comes as citizens complain about fallout of regions sanctions imposed following the two coups

By Hannane Ferdjani
Published On 8 Feb 2024

Bamako, Mali – It’s been a week since Mali’s military government announced its decision to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) but Bamako, the country’s capital, is still buzzing with energy.

In the early hours of the morning, the roads are bustling with city buses pushing through traffic jams, while market vendors walk hastily to their stalls to get the day started. But beneath that layer of normality are mounting concerns about leaving the 15-member regional bloc which Mali joined in 1975.

“It has become harder to get by and provide for my family,” Djadjie Camara, a shopkeeper in the city told Al Jazeera. “ECOWAS is the organisation who started all of this and made our lives harder. Life is hard for us, but I trust that leaving ECOWAS will benefit us in the end.”

After back-to-back coups in Mali within a year led to Colonel Assimi Goita becoming head of state in May 2021, the bloc slapped economic sanctions on the landlocked nation to push the transitional government to hold elections within a reasonable timeframe.

But that hit an economy grappling with blows from the COVID-19 pandemic and shocks from Russia’s war in Ukraine, hard. Inflation rose, with the cost of basic items like oil and sugar more than doubling. Since then, many Malians, including Camara, have embraced the government’s gradual distancing from the regional entity.

Although ECOWAS ended up lifting some of those sanctions in July 2022, many continue to harbour resentment for the embargo that inflicted hardship upon them.

This was the main argument presented by the newly formed Alliance of Sahel States (l’Alliance des Etats du Sahel or AES), including Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, in a January 28th joint statement announcing their withdrawal from the bloc, which they said had imposed “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane, and irresponsible sanctions”.

The second point of contention is ECOWAS’s perceived failure to aid their “essential battle against terrorism and insecurity”.

Diverging visions of pan-Africanism
When ECOWAS was established by the Treaty of Lagos on May 28, 1975, its primary focus was economics, aiming to create a West African market encompassing several neighbours.

A few years in, African leaders concluded that without political stability, they could not achieve their ultimate goal: a free market operating under a single currency. Hence, the birth of the Economic Community of West African States Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in 1990. To foster regional integration, ECOWAS intermittently uses its authority to enforce trade sanctions and intervene militarily under specific conditions.

In their joint statement in January, AES also said ECOWAS had strayed from those original pan-African principles and was now under the influence of external forces.

Former colonial masters France, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States have sided with ECOWAS’s anti-coup stance, cutting off military aid and other forms of funding to the trio. Consequently, many now see the bloc as a puppet of the West with new ideas about regional identity.

“Pan Africanism today is about realising the United States of Africa,” former Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara told Al Jazeera. “Strategically, this move is a mistake. It would translate into departing further away from the African integration goal whereby regional economic communities are integral.”

“Let us push back against that from within but leaving is not the solution,” he added. “The entire African continent accounts for 3 percent of the global GDP. West Africa represents less than 1 percent of that. We should consolidate these shares rather than disintegrating them.”

Together, the three exiting Sahel states in the AES represent just 8 percent of ECOWAS’s gross domestic product (GDP), which amounts to $761bn.

A withdrawal from the bloc could affect economic operators in AES who have benefitted from a regional free market where goods are exempt from tariffs and people travel as they please without visas.

Already, transport carriers are aware of what may change if the government sticks with the move.

“Things have changed in the last three years,” Tijani Mahamoudou, a truck driver from Niger, told Al Jazeera at a truck and trans-border bus station in Bamako. “We used to drive up and down to Senegal or Ivory Coast. Some of us carry merchandise. Others carry passengers. But since the coup, the border police going into these countries have become tougher. They check people’s IDs and our cargo. They make us waste time and money on these roads.”

“Even the way they talk to us and perceive us has changed. I know that if the AES leaves ECOWAS, things will only get worse for us who are always on the road,” he added.

‘We don’t know what to believe any more’
On Thursday, several hundred people demonstrated in Bamako in support of the government’s decision to withdraw from ECOWAS. Other rallies were held in towns, such as Kayes and Sikasso in the west and south of the country respectively.

The gatherings were in response to the transitional government’s call for people to take to the streets as they have routinely done so in the past three years. However, observers have argued that support for the state is on a decline unlike at the beginning of the transition.

“They had told school directors to let kids leave early to partake in the march, but even that didn’t happen,” a politician’s attaché who chose to remain anonymous told Al Jazeera about the last rally. “People have bigger problems … a regular Malian man wants to be able to provide for his family but with the electricity crisis that we’ve had, it’s become nearly impossible.”

From Bamako to Gao, power outages have become a persistent issue plaguing the entire country. Frustration has been mounting not only towards the national electricity provider, Energie du Mali (EDM) but also towards the transitional government.

And Malians have said the lack of proper governance is taking a toll on their source of livelihoods.

“We marched to chase IBK [former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita] away [in 2020]. We marched to support the military, who helped us finish the job. They’ve been saying that our lives would get better, but we still haven’t seen it. I have a shop where I can’t sell cold drinks any more … We don’t know what to believe any more,” another shopkeeper told Al Jazeera anonymously.

Coup plotters cited deteriorating security as one of the reasons for taking over. Authorities have since signed off on the end of a UN peacekeeping mission and seen off French troops. The state has also instituted an arrangement with Russian military instructors believed to be mercenaries within the ranks of Moscow-linked private military contractor, Wagner.

But violence by armed groups is still on the rise. Data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) shows that there was a 38 percent increase in attacks in 2023 alone.

The renewed antirebellion effort has come with allegations of serial human rights violations.

“We’ve been sinking deeper and deeper and continue to do so,” Moussa Kondo, executive director at the Bamako-based think tank, Sahel Institute, told Al Jazeera.

Kondo, a former journalist, was appointed a presidential adviser on governance, democracy, and rule of law in October 2021. He resigned from his post a year later citing personal reasons and resumed his work in civil society.

“We’ve rejected everything that we consider to be aligned with Western interests. But that doesn’t mean we should put all our eggs in one basket with Russia. It’s not about saying no to one foreign power only to say yes to everything another foreign power proposes … Our leaders have to remain transparent and keep away from manipulating the people with rhetoric,” Kondo said.

Under Article 91 of the ECOWAS Treaty, a state can only withdraw membership after giving a written one-year notice and abiding by its provisions during that period. If after a year, the AES states do not withdraw their notification, they will effectively no longer be part of the bloc.

Some believe reunification in the region is still possible before then.

“I think there’s still time to backpedal … we can sit at a table and negotiate,” Mara told Al Jazeera. “That is what I wish for and appeal to our authorities to do, especially as ECOWAS have said they are willing to find a negotiated path forward and the AU has pledged to mediate those talks. I’m still optimistic.”

Source: Al Jazeera, 8th February 2024


What is ECOWAS and why have 3 coup-hit nations quit the West Africa bloc?

Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, center first row, poses for a group   –  Copyright © africanews  Gbemiga Olamikan/Copyright 2023 The AP.  All rights reserved

Several months of tension between three coup-hit countries in West Africa and the regional bloc known as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa) boiled over when the nations announced their immediate withdrawal from the bloc and accused it of a lack of support and “inhumane” coup-related sanctions.

In their joint statement on Sunday, the juntas of Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso said that instead of helping their countries fight the security threats facing them, ECOWAS imposed “illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible” sanctions when they staged the coups “to take their destiny into their own hands.”

It’s the first time in the bloc’s nearly 50 years of existence that its members are withdrawing in such a manner. Analysts say it’s an unprecedented blow to the group and a further threat to the region’s stability.

How important is ECOWAS?

The 15-nation regional bloc Economic Community of West African States was established in 1975 with one goal: “To promote co-operation and integration … to raise the living standards of its peoples and to maintain and enhance economic stability. “It has since grown to become the region’s top political authority, often collaborating with states to solve domestic challenges on various fronts from politics to economy and security.

Under the current leadership of Nigeria, West Africa’s economic powerhouse, ECOWAS is needed more than ever with the region’s stability being threatened by rampant coups and security crises. It operates “in a world … where you need to be strong in one bloc and united in solidarity,” said Babacar Ndiaye, senior fellow with the Senegal-based Timbuktu Institute for Peace Studies.

The problem, though, Is that some believe ECOWAS Is fast losing goodwill and support from many West Africans who see it as failing to represent their interests in a region where citizens have complained of not benefitting from rich natural resources in their countries.

“When you see citizens pushing back and seeing ECOWAS as the leaders club or leaders who support each other at the detriment of citizens, it doesn’t work well,” said Oge Onubogu, director of the Africa Program at the U.S.-based Wilson Center think tank.

What is the process of withdrawal from the bloc?

The ECOWAS treaty provides that its member states who wish to quit the bloc shall give its leadership a one-year written notice, at the end of which “such a state shall cease to be a member of the community.”

The treaty says that during that year, the state planning to quit shall “nevertheless observe the provisions” and its obligations under the agreement. However, ECOWAS said it was yet to be notified about the three countries’ decision to quit and that they “remain important members” of the body for now.

Analysts say ECOWAS will likely seek a continued dialogue with the juntas on how best to ensure the region’s stability while the three nations’ military leaders focus on seeking new partnerships.

How significant is such a withdrawal?

One thing is clear. Relations between ECOWAS and the three countries have deteriorated because of the bloc’s choice of sanctions as a key tool to reverse the coups there.

The Alliance of Sahel States that the juntas created in November were also seen by observers as an attempt to legitimize their military governments, seek security collaborations and become increasingly independent of ECOWAS.

But withdrawing from the 49-year-old bloc in such a manner is unprecedented and seen as a “major change in the sub-region,” said Ndiaye with the Timbuktu Institute for Peace Studies.

“It is the most challenging issue facing the subregion since its inception,” said Ndiaye. “All the work they have put into building a collective security mechanism is based on the protocols that posit that democracy, good governance and the rule of law will be the basis for peace and security.”

Russia, prolonged military rule and other possible fallouts

ECOWAS has led efforts to return civilian rule to the coup-hit countries, pressuring the juntas with sanctions and rejecting lengthy transitional timetables.

The worry has been that there is little evidence to show the juntas are committed to holding democratic elections within those timelines. With Sunday’s announcement, analysts say the non-allegiance to ECOWAS may delay the return of democracy in the three countries and motivate coups in others.

“If they are no longer part of the ECOWAS bloc, they don’t have to abide by previous transitional timelines promulgated as a means of easing sanctions against them,” said Ryan Cummings, director of Africa-focused security consulting company Signal Risk.

Cummings says the withdrawal might result in a new opportunity for Russia to expand its presence and interests in Africa.

The once-friendly relations between the three countries and developed nations in the West and Europe had already turned sour after the coups. Russia meanwhile has been more welcoming and continues to play into anti-French sentiment by framing itself to African nations as a country that never colonized the continent.

The Russian mercenary group Wagner has been present in Mali, where it is partnering with the army in battling armed rebels. In Burkina Faso, state media reported last week that Russian soldiers arrived to “strengthen military and strategic cooperation” between the two countries. Both Russian and Nigerien senior officials have also recently hosted each other.

“These countries have in recent months reinforced and entrenched partnerships with Russia from national security to the economy,” said Cummings with Signal Risk.

How much support they could get from Russia remains to be seen. In African countries where Wagner has been present, security crises there have persisted while the mercenary group has been accused of various rights violations.

Source: AfricaNews, 29th January 2024


U.S. Secretary of state says Nigeria is “essential” to global future

President Bola Tinubu receives US Secretary of State, Antony Blinklen during his visit to Nigeria’s presidential Villa Abuja on Tuesday. Credit: State House.

Yusuf Tuggar tweeted Anthony Blinken’s visit focused enhancing trade relations and deepening democracy in West Africa.

Nigerian president Bola Tinubu held discussions with the US secretary of state ahead of a press conference.

The US top diplomat said Nigeria had an essential part to play in how Africa could shape the global future.

“Nigeria as Africa’s largest country, largest economy, largest democracy, is essential to that effort [Editor’s note: referring to the role Africa has in shaping the future globally].”

“We are doing a lot of work together already to drive in a positive direction. We’re we’re we’re driving climate action. As partners in the Global Methane Coalition, we’re pushing for permanent representation for African voices in the U.N. Security Council, in other international organizations.”

“The United States is committed to strengthening genuine partnerships on the continent, to work to solve shared challenges, and also to deliver on the promise and the fundamental aspirations of our peoples,” Blinken said.

His trip is part of President Biden’s attempt to tout the USA as Africa’s key economic and security ally.

Nigeria is Blinken’s third stop on his tour of African nations, following Cape Verde and Ivory Coast. He will travel next to Angola.

Source: AfricaNews, 24th January 2024


Ethiopia-Somaliland deal makes waves in Horn of Africa


The deal has caused outrage in Somalia

Somalia has ruled out mediation with Ethiopia unless Addis Ababa cancels a controversial deal that it recently made with the self-declared republic of Somaliland.

The 1 January agreement has been causing ructions in the Horn of Africa after Somaliland said it would lease part of its coastline to its landlocked neighbour.

Somalia – which considers Somaliland to be part of its territory – has previously described the move as an act of aggression.

Both the African Union and the US have backed the territorial integrity of Somalia and urged all parties to cool tensions.

What was agreed?

The exact wording of the deal signed by the leaders of Ethiopia and Somaliland has not been made public, which is a problem as there are differing versions of what the two sides agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

An MoU is a statement of intent rather than a legally binding agreement but what seems clear is that Somaliland is ready to grant Ethiopia access to the sea for commercial traffic through a port, although it is not clear which port that would be.

There is also a military aspect. Somaliland has said it could lease a section of the coast to Ethiopia’s navy, a detail which has been confirmed by Addis Ababa.

In return, Somaliland will get a share in Ethiopia Airlines, the country’s successful national carrier.

But where things get sticky is whether Ethiopia said it would recognise Somaliland as an independent state – something which no other country has done in the 30 years since the former British protectorate said it was leaving Somalia.

On the day of the signing, Somaliland’s President Muse Bihi Abdi said the agreement included a section stating that Ethiopia would recognise Somaliland as an independent country at some point in the future.

Ethiopia has not confirmed this. Instead, in its attempt to clarify what was in the MoU, the government on 3 January said the deal included “provisions… to make an in-depth assessment towards taking a position regarding the efforts of Somaliland to gain recognition”.

Why is this so controversial?

For Somalia, Somaliland is an integral part of its territory. Any suggestion that it could make a deal with another country or that bits of it could be leased without the approval of Mogadishu is highly problematic.

The day after the MoU was signed, Somalia described the deal as an act of “aggression” that was an “impediment to… peace and stability”. It also recalled its ambassador from Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia’s ambassador to Somalia subsequently left Mogadishu but there was no explanation for this move.

The Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud later stepped up the rhetoric saying: “We will defend our country, we will defend it by all means necessary and seek the support of any ally willing to help us.”

He also called on youths “to prepare for the defence of our country”.

The president has described Ethiopia as his country’s “enemy”.

“We have resisted their [Ethiopia’s] invasion before. We defeated them before and we will again,” he said on 12 January, according to state-owned broadcaster SNTV.

Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of rivalry.

In 1977 and 1978, Ethiopia and Somalia fought a devastating war for control of what is now called the Somali region of Ethiopia.

There have also been protests in Mogadishu against the deal with tens of thousands turning up to express their opposition.

What is the status of Somaliland?

Somaliland, a former British protectorate, declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991 and has all the trappings of a country, including a working political system, regular elections, a police force and its own currency.

Over the decades it has also escaped much of the chaos and violence that have hit Somalia.

But its independence has not been recognised by any country.

If, as Somaliland said, Ethiopia has agreed to recognise it at some point, it would have a profound impact on the Horn of Africa region.

What has Ethiopia said?

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed last year described access to the sea as an existential issue.

Ethiopia lost its ports when Eritrea seceded in the early 1990s. With more than 100 million people, it is the most populous landlocked country in the world.

Mr Abiy’s statement raised fears that Ethiopia could try to achieve its goal by force.

It has described the deal with Somaliland as historic, and emphasised that its intentions are peaceful.

“The position announced by the government is strongly rooted in a desire to not engage in war with anyone,” Ethiopia’s communications office said.

But in an oblique reference to the controversy, Mr Abiy said on X that “if we expect things to happen in ways that we are used to or know or can predict, [opportunities] may pass us”.

He added that some sometimes “out of the box” thinking was needed to achieve goals.

What have others said?

On 3 January, African Union commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat called for calm and mutual respect “to de-escalate the simmering tension”.

US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller also said that his country was concerned by reports that Ethiopia would recognise Somaliland’s independence.

“We join other partners in expressing our serious concern as well about the resulting spike in tensions in the Horn of Africa,” he added in a press briefing. The Arab League and the European Union have made similar statements.

Turkey, which plays a significant role in Somalia, stated its “commitment to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Somalia.

And Egypt has also pledged support for Somalia. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi told his Somali counterpart that Egypt stood by Somalia and supported “its security and stability”.

On 8 January, Somalia’s President Mohamud flew to Eritrea to hold talks with President Isaias Afwerki.

The Somali leader said Eritrea had said it backed Somalia in the dispute, but the Eritrean government is yet to comment.

Another regional neighbour, Kenya, which enjoys close relations with both Ethiopia and Somalia, has kept a low profile and has not yet formally commented, while Uganda has also not taken a clear position.


Source: BBC, 20th January 2024